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Forsmark at FPM: The Generals

Posted on March 18 2010 10:41 am
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army
By David Cloud and Greg Jaffe
Crown, $28, 330 pp.

Review by David Forsmark

It’s a dusty axiom that generals have the bad habit of fighting the last war, rather than the one they’re engaged in.

After Vietnam, the U.S. Army took the opposite approach. From the quagmire of ‘Nam, the Army took the “lesson” that it should never again engage in another counter-insurgency effort —or even study how to fight one.  (This, despite the fact that the U.S. had won the fight against the Viet Cong guerrillas by 1972, and its Special Forces knew exactly how to conduct such a war.)

This combination of arrogance and head-in-the-sand flight from reality became embedded in the command bureaucracy, which refused to train troops for counter-insurgency or even to compose contingency plans on how to fight such a war.

In The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army, a superb new book by David Cloud and Greg Jaffe, the authors contend that such an approach nearly led to disaster in Iraq.

During the Cold War, the Army was very well prepared for the Big Invasion (think Grenada, Panama and the first Gulf War), but it had no doctrine for dealing with guerrilla fighting.

At the core of this ostrich-like approach was the Powell Doctrine — a comforting bit of pabulum that became conventional wisdom even outside the military.  In short, the doctrine stated the U.S. should engage in a war only when vital (key word) national interests are threatened; that overwhelming force should be exercised in an all-out effort to win; and that a clear exit strategy should be drafted for when the pre-defined goal is met.

Read more at Frontpage Magazine…

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